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Black America’s 2011 Economic Challenge:

Overcoming income inequal- ities through better con- sumer choices

by Charlene Crowell NNPACOLUMNIST

The agency mandated to provide Congress with impartial, non-parti- san and timely analyses seldom makes headline news. But this week when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released findings on its analysis of the nation's income inequalities from a 30-year review (1979-2007), media coverage exploded.

After assessing the net income shares of people in 525 cities and towns, the agency’s top-line finding was reminiscent of lines from a Broadway production, “There’s no shame in being poor - but it’s no great honor either.”

According to CBO, the nation's top one percent of household income more than tripled during these years, while middle class households either slipped into poverty or barely held on to their standard of living. Middle class income earners representing 60 percent of the population accounted for only 40 percent of after-tax household income. And among America’s lowest earning workers - about 20 percent of the population, the growth in average real after-tax household income was only 18 per- cent.

In part the report advised, “The rapid growth in average real house- hold income for the one percent of the population with the highest

income was a major factor contribut- ing to the growing inequality in the distribution of household income between 1979 and 2007. Shifts in government transfers and federal taxes also contributed to the increase in inequality.” A plain English translation of this finding seems to be that the 30-year span of trickle-down economics at work has not brought a drop of pros- perity to 99 percent of the nation. No wonder the nation has seen a groundswell of demonstrators refer- ring to themselves as the '99ers'. For African-Americans in particu-

lar, these ill-advised policies have been particularly painful - unem- ployment rates double that of the rest of the nation, neighborhoods dotted with foreclosures and short- sales, a lack of affordable housing for former homeowners, and for those lucky enough to still have a job - incomes trailing the rest of the nation.

If there was ever a time ripe for change, it surely must be now. We cannot continue along the same 30- year path that has led to such pathet- ic results. The nation needs the return of a robust economy and a time when vigorous enforcement from our federal consumer-watch- dog agency convinces more busi- nesses to become more consumer- respectful.

It is equally important that as con- sumers of color we direct our dollars to education, businesses and enter- prises that value all we bring to the marketplace table. According to the Nielsen Company's recent report, The State of the African-American Consumers, 43 million African- American consumers together repre- sent nearly a trillion dollars of pur- chasing power each year. Before Black Friday, the day fol-

lowing Thanksgiving and tradition- ally the busiest retail shopping day of the year, African-Americans have

the opportunity to be better stewards of the purchasing power we hold in our own hands. We can and should use our economic clout to forge new awareness and respect for our eco- nomic strength. Moreover, that strength would best be shared with those that value our choices in every purchase or investment.

If lenders are reluctant to offer transparent transactions that inform us before a debt is incurred, we need to walk away with our money, our credit and our self-respect. Whether the product is a new credit or debit card, auto financing, or a mortgage, we must remember that loyalty in business should be earned - not given away.

No one has or ever will beg their way out of poverty. But by becom- ing wiser consumers, we can begin to carve our own path to prosperity. Charlene Crowell is a communi- cations manager with the Center for Responsible Lending.

Black Reparations Update: More than mere chump change!

by William Reed, NNPA Columnist

What do you think of repara- tions for the descendants of slaves? Over the next year African Americans will have an opportunity to illustrate their political priorities. Do you believe African Americans will yield to symbolism of re-electing President Barack Obama or rekin- dle the movement to be paid just reparations?

Who among us can disagree that racial discrimination, slavery and Jim Crow are the reasons for African Americans’ economic inequities?

America’s most con-

tentious issue today is the same as it's been for 150 years: That the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ bondage and unpaid labor. To most Americans it's unfathomable that reparations be paid for slavery.


“Slavery” is internationally rec- ognized as a crime for which

there is no statute of limitations. Slavery flourished in the United States from 1619 to 1865, in an inhumane deprivation of Africans' lives under which they were held against their will, treated as prop- erty, and forced to work without compensation. American slavery was followed by 100 years of government-led-and-supported denial of equal and humane treat- ment that included Black Codes, convict lease, sharecropping, peonage, and Jim Crow practices of separate and unequal accom- modations that lasted until the 1960s.

During the period of slavery the U.S. Capitol and White House were built for free and the nation became most prosperous in the world. Calculations of many of our ancestors' coerced and uncompensated labor total more than $700 trillion in today's money. Millions of contemporary African Americans suffer as a direct result of slavery and Jim Crow; yet Black Americans

refuse to engage in conversations about reparations for slavery. Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery descendants con- tinue to be denied their rights of inheritance and full economic opportunities.


Americans refuse to engage in discussions about reparations despite the fact that American laws and practices continue treat- ing Blacks in unequal manners in virtually every area of life includ- ing law enforcement and penal system, healthcare and life expectancies, education and wealth.

More is owed to American descendants of slaves. What can be done to atone for the sustained and heinous crime that occurred? Who among us gained from the capture and sale of human beings? Who were their benefac- tors? What did past laws have to do with the fact that Black house- holds of today still have barely one-tenth the net worth of White households? A comparison of the

12 Chicago Defender • • November 9-15, 2011

quality of life for Blacks and Whites in categories related to economics, health, education, civic participation and social jus- tice shows the overall well-being of African Americans barely three-fourths that of Whites. In January 1989, Detroit Congressman John Conyers (D) introduced House Resolution Bill 40, the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.

The bill advo-

cates for the federal government to undertake an official study of the social, political, and econom- ic impact of slavery on our nation. It is designed to create formal dia- logue on the issue of reparations through a national commission established to examine the impact of slavery and continuing dis- crimination against

Americans and make recommen- dations concerning any form of apology and compensation. As we move toward the 2012 election, the symbolism of having a Black in the White House pales

in the light of what the payments of righting the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow would total for descendants of American slaves. These injustices are the root cause of many critical issues affecting African-Americans today.


question is whether Black Americans will throw their politi- cal clout behind post-racial silli- ness, and not address the subject of reparations or initiate construc- tive dialogue on the role of slav- ery and racism in shaping present day conditions. Reparations can begin the healing process in a nation that has been divided on the basis of race for centuries. Blacks need to note how the legacy of slavery and its vestiges contribute to current societal and economic inequality.

Hopefully, African-

this will lead more of us to sup- port H.R. 40 and lend voice to demands that any and all political contenders commit to appropriate determination and allocation of reparations.

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